Who gives a crap?

Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, I find myself doing things that can only make a bad situation worse. I acknowledge that what I am doing is wrong and then proceed to do it with gusto. Flushing the toilet for a third time in a fancy hotel while thinking this time it will go down might be one of those situations.

Scrambling for towels I start searching for a plunger hidden somewhere in the room. At this point all logical reasoning goes out the window. Maybe there is a plunger in the closet, or the dresser, or the night stand? Then it becomes clear, fancy hotels do not stock their rooms with plungers. It’s not as if they simply forgot to put one in the room, but more of a conscious decision.

Most people would give up and call the front desk; not me. I begin to wonder what objects in the room might make suitable substitutions for a plunger. My eyes quickly dart around the room; the lamp, the bar tray, a power cord? Nothing seems to fit and then I open the closet door and experience an epiphany, the little wooden rod on the hanger that holds pants, perfect!


I just can't quit you!
 
Clearly I have learned nothing from my first round of illogical thinking. I bend the rod back and forth until it is free. My socks are drenched from walking through the water on the bathroom floor. I poke the rod into the toilet attempting to push whatever is stuck down the drain. The rod slips out of my hand and is now floating in the toilet.

I begin to pack my bags. It has only been thirty minutes since I checked in. This is the way I found the room. It seems plausible.

“Hello Mr. Dameron, how can I help you?” The hotel clerk says

“Um, yes, it’s my toilet; it seems to be stopped up.” I say

"I am so sorry Mr. Dameron. We’ll send engineering up immediately.” She says and before I can elaborate, she is gone. I peel off my wet socks and unzip my suitcase looking for dry socks. Then there is a knock on the door. Shit, shit, shit! This is the south; no one moves that quickly here! My escape plan has been foiled.

“Hello Mr. Dameron” Engineering says as I open the door. Does everyone in this hotel know my name?

“Let’s see what we got here” the engineer says while walking towards the bathroom.

“I really must apologize” I start stammering and then he lets out a whistle as if to say what the hell?

“You wouldn’t believe the shit I’ve found in toilets” he says. I want to lighten the mood and say isn’t that exactly what you would expect to find in a toilet? But “Mike” as his name tag implies does not seem to be in joking mood.
 
“I’ve found car keys, bottles, a Polaroid of a nekkid woman, looked like from the 1980’s”. Mike continues. How does he know that the picture of the woman was from the 1980’s, I mean if she was “nekkid”? Did she have Farrah Fawcett feathered hair? Mike interrupts my thoughts.

“I’ll be back with help.” He says and leaves.

Within ten minutes Mike returns with some type of industrial looking plunger and a sidekick. After thirty  minutes of listening to the sounds of heavy machinery and dialogue between Mike and his assistant, which consists of mostly “what the fuck?” and “shit!”, the pair re-appears and announces that they are going to need to “Lift the toilet”. I have no idea what “lift the toilet” means, but it seems that the prognosis is not good.

“Ok, well do whatever you need to do.” I say. They are consulting me as if this is my child on an operating room table. After ten more minutes, I hear Mike say “Ok, let’s flush it one more time.” This is it, clear! Then I hear the most beautiful gurgling noise. My toilet has been brought back to life.

Mike and his assistant emerge from the bathroom looking triumphant, but exhausted.

“Thank you so much. I’m sorry you had to do that.” I say, considering shaking his hand and then thinking better of it.

“It wasn’t you, it was a damn woman.” Mike says with one eyebrow lifted. “There oughta’ be a law against them.” Again I consider lightening the mood by asking if he means a law against women or tampons? I decide to give him a five dollar bill instead. "Nasty things" I say and I can see Mike thinking Does he mean women or tampons?

Finally alone in my bathroom I unpack my clothes and try to hang them on the shower rod, the hanger hook is too small, so I hang them on the shower curtain hooks instead and turn the shower on full steam hot and close the door. A little tip I learned to get rid of wrinkles. A half hour later I remember to check on my clothes. A blast of steamy air singes my eyebrows as I open the door. My pants have become too heavy for the shower curtain hook and have landed in the water. Shit, shit, shit! Is that wallpaper curling? There must be some glue in this room somewhere.



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Mrs. Green-Burger

Dear Shakahari Pre-School parents:

I think we can all agree that last night’s dialogue session on our “zero-tolerance” policy regarding meat products was beneficial. Remember, if it had a parent, we won’t eat it! Even though I’d love to eat up your adorable children! (Ha, Ha).


Warmest Regards,

Mrs. Green

***********************************************************************************

Hello again Parents:

I sincerely apologize for yesterday's e-mail. As so many of you have pointed out, that last sentence was reprehensible.

Most Apologetically,

Mrs. Green

***********************************************************************************

Parents:

Point taken: Would the parents responsible for constructing the “Mrs. Green-Burger” effigy promptly remove it from school property?

Mrs. Green


Mrs. Green-Burger
This is a 100 word challenge for grown ups. This week’s prompt was the photo above (with some photo-shopping....)
You can find other entries at:


http://jfb57.wordpress.com/tag/100wcgu/

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My dinner with David Sedaris

Guess what?


Last night I had dinner with David Sedaris: Yes, THE David Sedaris! I suppose it was inevitable. I mean you can’t write diligently for eight whole months and not expect to hobnob with modern literary greats. As dinners go, it was fairly unremarkable; some type of baked chicken with green beans, but still, you can’t beat the company. Oh, Paul was there too. But he seemed less than impressed.

But I have gotten ahead of my story. Let me take a step back. The evening began with a reading at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, NH. It turns out that people in New Hampshire really seem to like David Sedaris. The place was packed. Never having heard him speak publicly, I really didn’t know what to expect. So when he quickly marched on stage, eyes down, without much fanfare, to say that it was less than climatic would be an understatement.

“Hello, and thank you for coming” He sounds like a Smurf that just huffed helium.

I let out a loud laugh. When Paul squeezed my leg and told me to shut-up, I realized that this was not part of the act and that I was, in fact, the only one laughing. It was a rough start.

He redeemed himself after reading a few new essays and some quotes from his diary and then told us a joke:

A man is in bed sleeping when he hears a knock at his door. Angrily, the man says to himself “Who would be knocking at my door at this time of night?” He opens the door and there is a small snail standing at his door step. “Hello” the little snail says cheerfully, “I’d like to talk to you about purchasing some magazines!” The man kicks the snail as hard as he can. The tiny snail goes flying across the yard.

Two years later, the man is lying in bed and hears a knock at his door again. He opens the door and there is that same small snail.

“What the fuck was that about?” The snail says.

This time I laughed my ass off with everyone else.

But the real point to my story is that I sat across the table from David Sedaris while we had dinner. Well, I suppose I couldn’t really say “we” as he was doing all of the eating and truth be told, he had devoured most of it before we even got there. But you see the line to talk to him at the book signing was about an hour long.

As we waited in line and moved much like the snail from his joke, Paul said with a disgusted look on his face “He talks with a mouth full of food. Now I know why he moved to Europe. Look at those teeth.”

We watched as a woman with her entire library of David Sedaris books told him her life story. He seemed like a cat that was getting tired of playing with a ball of string, only looking up occasionally as if to say “Ok, I’ll bat this thing one more time”, while stuffing another bite of green beans into his mouth. The poor woman did not take a breath while speaking.

“If you act like that when we finally get to speak to him, I’m going to slap you.” Paul said.

Finally we reached the table. I was calm and collected, determined not to make a fool of myself as I handed him my book.

“Hi.” Mr. Sedaris said.

“Hi, I’m Bill and this is Paul!” Now my voice sounded strangely Smurf-like.

“You guys are together? How long have you been together?”

“Four years, well we’ve been married for one and a half years!” I said

“Where did you get married?” He asked.

“Boston, well Ashby, it’s a little town west of Boston. But originally I’m from North Carolina, but I moved up here. Actually, I’m from Greensboro. Your brother Paul refinished my Brother John’s hardwood floors. Your brother has the same name as my husband!” Oh God, shut-up, shut-up, shut-up, Bill. I could see Paul looking at me out of the corner of his eyes willing me to shut-up too. I flinched while waiting for that slap that he had promised me.

I tried speaking again. “Does Hugh get upset when you write about him?”

“No” he simply replied.

“Are you and Hugh going to get married?” I tried another angle

“NO!” He said this as if someone had just pissed into his green beans.

“Do you guys like Glee?” He asked as his eyes lit up.

“Um, sure” I said.

“I thought a new episode was going to be on this week, but apparently not for two more weeks. Rachel and Finn and oh, what’s that kid’s name?” Mr. Sedaris said.

“Kurt!” I said this too quickly, I thought to myself. This was not the conversation I expected to have with my fellow writer. We both grew up in North Carolina and are ex-pats, well most North Carolinians consider Boston a foreign country, and write about our witty Gay lives. But he has chosen the lowest common denominator and is talking to me about Glee.

“Kurt, yes that’s it! They’re all going to have sex in the next episode!” He says with, well, glee, as he absent-mindedly writes something in my book.

“I’d pay to see that Blaine totally nude.” He continues and looks up at me like a cat about to pounce on a mouse. I look at Paul and his eyes say “Move it along, Dameron.”

“Well, thank you Mr. Sedaris” I say slightly disappointed and pick up my book as we walk away. I open the book and read the inscription: “To Bill and Paul, 2 gay homosexuals who are gay and do homosexual things, David Sedaris.”

I look at Paul and say “What the fuck was that about?”

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October 18, 1999

Talk to me Dad.
Here I am.
Everyone is here.

And we’re not leaving.
Until you go.
Time waited.
Uncap the bottle.
Mix a drink.
Now it’s time.

Let it go.
Each breath is a whisper.
All is said.
Voices fill the void.
Echoes in the darkness,
Sing you home.





This is a fifty word challenge for grown ups (we get fewer words this week). This week’s prompt is The Autumn Leaves.

You can find other entries at:
http://jfb57.wordpress.com/tag/100wcgu/

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Life in the bus lane

“Excuse me ma’am, are you getting on the bus?” My question seems pleasant enough. What I really want to say is “Can you un-glue that phone from your ear and control your little brat long enough to make a decision?” But even to me, this seems to be a confrontational question. The type of question that might warrant an equally confrontational reply, something along the lines of oh, “Fuck you.”

So I am surprised when the reply to my pleasant question is “But is polite to wait passengers for to leave the bus” In what I imagine to be a Russian accent. I’m not sure why manners suddenly seem important now that the bus door has opened. They certainly didn’t seem to matter when she pushed her way to the front of the line and let her child perform a Bolshoi ballet on my shoes.

But to ride the bus, is to love the bus.

When I moved into the city, I gave the car to my teenage daughter in Virginia so that she could participate in demolition derby. Every month or so there would be a telephone call.

“Hi Taylor, what did you hit now? Oh OK, as long as no one was hurt.” I would say.

In the beginning, I would ask for photographs of the car so that I could survey the damage. What I received was less of an insurance adjustor’s account of the damage and more of a Seventeen magazine photo spread. Here is Taylor draped across the hood of the car. Here is Taylor with her pouty look. Here is Taylor with her palms turned up with a look of surprise on her face as if to say “What? Are you talking to me Mr. sexy officer?” The car might have been in the photographs. But clearly the focus was on Taylor. The car was simply a foil. At first I was a little frustrated. But as I looked at the photographs, I became more impressed.

“Paul, look at the extension of Taylor’s leg in this one. I think she nailed this pose, don’t you?”

“Ok Tyra. When was the last oil change?”

Leave it to Paul to kill the moment.

I suppose that sums of the difference between us. I really could care less about the care and feeding of cars while Paul assigns them human characteristics. In his eyes cars are sexy or sporty or scary. Basically, they are Spice Girls on wheels. While to me, they are a way to get from point A to point B; which is why I find myself sitting on the bus with my fellow commuters.

You would think that after a year or so of bus commuting I would get to know them. But we each travel in our own bubble. Oh, I recognize a few of them; don’t get me wrong, but not really in a way that you might say “Let’s get together for drinks" or “We must schedule a lunch”, more along the lines of being able to pick them out of a Police line-up.

Here is Mrs. Curry-coat. Her coat smells of Indian food and I imagine that the only coat hook in her home is located next to the stove. Then there is Ms. Baby-Mama-smokes. She always takes one last puff of her cigarette and flicks it to the curb while hoisting her baby carriage onto the bus steps. My, how her baby has grown! It won’t be long now before both of them spit out their cigarette butts before climbing onto the bus. Then there is Miss Awesome! Every time she enters the bus, she always asks the bus driver in the most annoyingly perky way “Hey there! How are you?” and when he grumbles back “fine, you?” her reply is always “Awesome!” While most of the people on the bus do not speak English, I see them roll their eyes when she gets on. I guess perkiness is universally despised.

Which leads me to wonder how product marketing is targeted for this bus? As I look at the advertisements above the windows I see a picture of Demi Moore dressed to the nines in an Ann Taylor advertisement. Looking at the passengers none of them scream Ann Taylor; Target maybe. The next advertisement is a sign that says “Too much Salt can lead to HEART ATTACK or STROKE!” There is a picture of soup cans with little piles of salt scattered around them. I’m pretty sure that the picture is meant to aid non-English speakers. But it seems half done. Shouldn’t there be a picture of someone clutching his heart with a look of agony on his face? Maybe he could even have X’s for eyes. If I were a foreigner, I would discard the words and think that American soup must taste better with a little pile of salt in it.

Soon I realize that the young man sitting next to me is fidgeting while looking at some papers. I discreetly look down at his paper and read the title “How has living in this country changed me?” This seems more interesting than the book I am reading so I begin to read a few lines.

“Before I came to this country I was dependent on others. This country has made me independent. I have my own job. I have my own apartment.”

Suddenly I realize that these people are not just one dimensional. They have lives and loves beyond the confines of this bus. If the lens were turned back on me, how would my fellow passengers see me? Would they only see a reasonably well-dressed middle-aged American man? Or would they look deeper? Maybe they would see my new wedding band, the contentment in my eyes and say here is a man that is happy. Here is a man that found love just when he needed it the most.

I smile to myself and stand up to get off at my stop. I choose to believe that these bus comrades see the real me: the content man, the man who sees more to life than just the surface. These are my fellow voyagers in life. I squeeze through the aisle to get to the door, and my messenger bag brushes the knee of a passenger. He makes a great display while saying “Ouch, watch your bag man!” Then I understand what my fellow passengers see in me. It is not so much of a visionary in love, but more of an annoyance.

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A Brief Count


Along Beacon Street I think of you. Walking through the circle I practice my car-dodging. Eventually forgetting our warm days are fading. The sun warms my face during October’s golden hour.

It’s just not the same without you. These are our streets, and so I’ll keep listening. My name haunts the air.
Did you leave it there on purpose?

Quick, run the light is still green!

Another week begins and you start travelling. Unknown variables in the points between us flip the equation. Where X marks the spot, it is the intersection of my heart; these streets and your Z-axis.




This is a one hundred word challenge for grown ups. This week’s prompt is the Alphabet.

Did you figure out the pattern?  (Hint:  The first two words of the sentence and the last two words of the next, until the equation flips)

You can find other entries at:


http://jfb57.wordpress.com/tag/100wcgu/




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Steel trap

Contrary to popular opinion, I have an excellent memory. By “popular opinion” of course I mean my husband’s opinion. For instance, I can remember what I wore on our first date over four years ago. Right down to the underwear. That point may seem trivial, but when you are getting the proper support, it makes a world of difference. But maybe that’s an unfair example. Everyone remembers what undergarments they wore to significant events.

I am a little embarrassed because I’m drawing a blank on other specific examples of my outstanding memory. But in general, I remember everything. Maybe that’s it. It’s not so much the specifics as much as the generalities that I remember. If you were to ask me what date someone’s birthday was and by “someone”, I mean my husband Paul, I would draw a blank. But honestly, that’s why Facebook was invented. If you want people to remember your birthday, you really should invest the time in creating a Facebook page. If you were to ask me what that person’s profile picture looked like, then I would be on my game. Now that I think about it, I guess my memory is more visual, while Paul’s is more a number’s thing.

“When is Zeke’s birthday?” Paul is quizzing me on my nephew’s birthdate.

“Does he have a Facebook page?” I reply.

“No, he’s nine years old. Remember the movie Nine to Five?” Paul says.

“Oh, I loved that movie! Honestly, could Dolly Parton have a smaller waist?”

“Probably not, but concentrate. The hint is Nine to Five. That’s how I remember Zeke’s birthday.” Paul says.

I narrow my eyes and search my brain, but all I can see is Lilly Tomlin as Snow White pouring rat poison into Mr. Hart’s coffee.

“Nine to Five. It’s a movie about working. His mother was in l-a-b-o-r.” Paul says this slowly as if he is speaking to someone whose second language is English.

“Labor day! That’s the day when Zeke was born!” I say triumphantly.

Paul stares at me in disbelief.

“Labor day is a different date every year, Pookie. No, Zeke was born on 9/25.”

“Well, he really should get a Facebook page.” I say defensively.

“OK, now let’s try our other nephew’s birthday.” Paul says. “Adam likes to eat all the time, so that’s your clue.”

This really means nothing to me. I begin to think of times when people eat too much and Thanksgiving comes to mind, but I have already been admonished for picking a date that changes every year. I wonder if this is the year we go to North Carolina for Thanksgiving or do we spend it in Boston? If we are going out of town, we really should begin to think about making airline reservations.

I have let too much time pass before offering an answer. Paul realizes that I have checked out of the conversation.

“Think of places that serve food all of the time.” Paul says and raises his eyebrows like that will help.

Silence and then crickets.

“7-11 serves food all of the time.” Paul answers his own question.

“July 11th. That’s right, I had forgotten.” I say snapping my fingers and shaking my head like it was there all the time.

“Close, but now reverse it. His birthday is November seventh.” Paul says.

I stare at him without blinking. “You have got to be shitting me. That’s how you remember Adam’s birthday? Why not just remember that it is on D-Day, you know the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?” I say incredulously. Honestly his memory patterns are way too complicated.

Paul shakes his head. “D-day is on June 6th and Pearl Harbor Day, which is a separate event altogether, was on December 7th, not November 7th.”

I suppose I am a little rusty on remembering dates. But why should I even bother? Paul has them all memorized. And by “all”, I mean since the beginning of time. Drop a box of toothpicks and he could probably tell you how many have fallen out in two seconds.

This morning I stepped out of the shower and above my towel was a little label stuck to the wall that said “Squegee”. It was misspelled, but really it was just the darndest, cutest thing. We recently replaced our shower door, at this point you can really just assume that when I say “we” I mean Paul, and in order to keep it clean, we need to squeegee it after our shower. Paul put the label there to remind me to do this. It really was so cute; I had to take a picture of it.

As I was getting dressed in the bedroom Paul walked out of the bathroom and stared at me with such an enigmatic smile while taking off his shoes. We normally don’t have time for such things in the morning, but it
was Friday and so what if I was a little late to work? He walked back into the bathroom. I followed him and watched as he stepped into the shower. He smiled at me and I winked back.

Then he picked up the squeegee and started cleaning the shower door.

“Oh Crap! I was going to do that.”

Seriously, I have a great memory. But maybe Paul’s is so much better. Together, we never forget any of the important things. And when I say “we”, well I think you know what I mean.



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Writer's block

When you write non-fiction it is generally accepted that what you put on paper is true. When writing a blog post, I need to pull from real life incidents and remembrances, but sometimes my life and memories are really just not that exciting. So, I am just going to start typing and wait for a story to develop. This one seems to be going nowhere. I’m sorry.

It’s not that interesting things have not occurred over the past several weeks, they certainly have. But to hold a story together, there really should be a central theme: conflict and resolution.

I attended a family wedding and a thirtieth high school reunion in the past two weeks. Entire books have been devoted to those topics, so you would think that a lousy blog post or two could develop. But, no, my mind has decided to keep these stored for a while. My friend Sam told me that there is no such thing as writer’s block. It is only that the writer is afraid of expressing his emotions. Ah, so that’s it! Good, now we have some conflict. Maybe sharing just a few observations will get the old juices flowing.

Let’s start with the wedding. If I were going to write a story about it, I would have to write about the brother of the bride’s toast. Aside from his joke referencing spousal abuse and the quote from “Slaughterhouse Five” it was a good toast. OK, maybe it sucked, there is just no sugar coating that one. Watching the bride’s face turn from a smile to a wince was painful for everyone. I don’t think I can turn that one into any more of a story.

I suppose there was one other interesting incident at the wedding. There was a photo booth, the kind you might find in a suburban mall. Paul and I slipped in and had some photos made. Long story short, we shared our hotel room with my Sister-In-Law and had no alone time  Suddenly, we were alone in the dark, one thing led to another and well, you get the picture. No, you won't get the pictures and neither will we. It turns out our pictures were the only ones that did not make it to the photo booth’s website. I wanted to order re-prints, but the company said something about how our pictures became corrupted on their hard drive. I guess there really isn’t much of a  story in that one either.

The reunion, there certainly should be some stories there. Here I am, thirty years later returning with my husband to a high school reunion in North Carolina. As a back story they have just passed a resolution to let the people of North Carolina vote to amend the constitution to prohibit same sex marriage. This one has comedy written all over it!

It’s really hard to know where to start. I could talk about the wife of one of my classmates who was Muslim and felt a kindred spirit with the only two gay men at the reunion. Paul kept calling her muslin. When I told him she was not a cheap fabric, he failed to see the humor. Or maybe I could write about the woman who lost the love of her life after only being with him for one year, but still harbored a deep seated hatred for a classmate she had not seen in thirty years.

Perhaps the best story could center on the classmate who entered the men’s room shouting “Are there any Homo’s in here?” shortly after Paul and I went to the men’s room.  When I told my mother about that story she offered "Well remember you beat him in the individual medley at the city swim meet when your were fourteen."  She said this with a satisfied look that seemed to say "You'll always have that!"   No, none of that stuff is very interesting.

I wish I could make a story out of the past couple of weeks for you, but as I said, I have writer’s block. Something will come together next week. Until then, I’ll leave you with a quote, said in all seriousness, by my mother after I attended the reunion. And just to give you the background one more time: A gay man married to another man returning to the south for his thirtieth high school reunion when the state is considering a constitutional amendment outlawing same sex marriage: “Well, Bill, you didn’t have anything to prove.”

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Finally Home

Ah, finally home.  After a long weekend of travelling we slump into our seats on the  "T", suitcases wedged between us. The unseasonal weather causes beads of sweat to roll down our backs as we hurtle through the dark city night.

North Carolina, the home of my childhood seemed so foreign: smiling faces, single syllable words as sweet as taffy stretched into unimaginable lengths. I glance across the aisle at my fellow strangers. These are my people: The people of Boston.

I nod to the man across the aisle. He starts barking at me like a dog. Ah, finally home.



This is a one hundred word challenge for grown ups. This week’s prompt is the unseasonal weather... You can find other entries at:

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/tag/100wcgu/




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